Scary, sad, conflicted and freeing, all at the same time.
This past year I have been overloaded with obligations, and rather than drive myself into the ground I decided to stop teaching private lessons.
Most of my students have been with me for a long time. I've seen puppies grow up and old dogs pass on. I've learned from my human students and their dogs - each day, minute by minute, and I'm grateful for their trust, patience, and acceptance. I don't have all the answers and their trust has allowed me the freedom to try new approaches, and sometimes to fail. I learned about a lot more than dogs. I learned about the dog/handler team too; the importance of creating plans that are realistic, even when they weren't my first choice.
Some came for a little problem solving...and never left. Some returned to their clubs and training groups with new ideas - and occasionally met hostility and ridicule. Yet they persisted, making obedience a more intriguing and enjoyable experience for both dogs and humans. Instead of complaining about the current state of training, they worked from the inside to make obedience better.
My students have volunteered tirelessly on my behalf. Someone has always been available to help me with my own dogs for a few minutes; to listen as I talked through a problem, or to provide a simple training distraction. I'll really miss that.
I'll miss our discussions - many of which had nothing to do with dogs, but which have helped me with other goals and interests. In particular, I appreciate all of the help with my kids - raising kids is really hard, and talking to those who have already been down that path has given me support and insight where I needed it.
This blog is to thank my students; past and present, for all you have done to support my growth, change and success, both within the sport of dogs and outside as well. I mean it literally when I say that I would not be who I am today if it weren't for your presence. The more your dog made me think, work and struggle, the more I appreciate what you have given me. I am more calm. More patient. More accepting. More knowledgeable. So thank you.
As you move forward, pay attention when your dog talks to you. Celebrate the small successes. Build your dog's confidence. Train with respect and affection. Accept the dog you have - she has already accepted you.
Good luck. I miss you already.